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Senate approves safety measures for road workers

Installing automated vehicle speed cameras and other measures to improve highway safety were approved in separate bills by the state Senate Feb.23.

“Speed kills. Our work zones have lower posted speeds for very good reasons. This helps to prevent collisions with slower-moving work vehicles and helps to protect workers who are often outside of their vehicles,” said Mark McKechnie from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission testifying in support of ESSB 5272.

There were 28 fatalities in work zones in the past three years. About 20% of accidents in work zones are due to speeding, according to the WTSC.

Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5272, sponsored by Sen. Marko Liias, D-Everett, and co-sponsored by Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, authorizes the use of speed safety camera systems in active highway work zones.

“We had to do something, and as we looked at the possibilities of what we should do, cameras came to the top. It’s the least we can do to protect these workers and make sure that they get home safely every night,” King said.

Automated traffic safety cameras detect traffic violations. The revenue generated from the cameras is treated as a parking infraction and remains with the local government.

“As the son of a construction worker, I can remember poignantly as a young boy when my father was injured on a construction site, and thankfully he recovered well,” Liias said. “The fear and uncertainty that comes with that call is something we don’t want Washington families to have to go through, particularly when their families are serving all of us.”

“When we drive unsafely through those work zones, we aren’t going a little faster, we are endangering the lives of the people doing that incredible work for us,” Liias added.

Senate Bill 5023, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview, deals with the safety of tow truck drivers.

It allows tow trucks to operate rear-facing blue lights for use only at the scene of an emergency or accident. Trucks can use their revolving red lights when reentering the roadway from the scene of an emergency or accident.

Arthur Anderson, 63, was a tow truck driver assisting a parked car on Interstate 5 when a vehicle crashed into the car and the tow truck killing him and two other people.

Wilson said he believes lights will alert drivers to be cautious and slow down around emergency sites.

“Arthur Anderson paid the ultimate price and sought to do what any work a truck operator would do,” Wilson said.

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